Review Summary: Sing to me of the girls, Muse, the girls of spirit and power driven to the top of the charts, for their exploits deserve the recognition of your true nobility!
It is usually thought that it is easier to look back and analyse the past than to comment on the present and make predictions for the future. Looking at the Spice Girl’s debut album Spice
, it is easy to see that one side clearly has an opinion well off-base. Whereas at the time, it was so easy to give in to the hype; now those same girl power members have turned on the Spice Girls. In modern day society, the Spice Girls have an incredibly negative stigma attached to them. There are those that refuse to acknowledge their Spice Girls adoration phase, and then there are some who do not despise their past pop addictions. But even these people largely refuse to acknowledge that these past addictions had any musical merit. Society seems to have rested on the view that Spice
and Spice World
were nothing more than gimmicks, and certainly not quality albums. With such contrasting opinions, somebody sure has to be wrong.
Of all the musical artists to have carried a feminist message of inspiration in their music, none have done it stronger than the Spice Girls. Sure, artists like Cyndi Lauper
and Aretha Franklin
taught men to show a little more respect. And with no intention of demeaning their achievements in bringing the feminist message to the mainstream, they didn’t even touch on the impact of the Spice Girls. In 1996, Britain felt the force of the Spice Girls and their girl power movement. As an act of marketing genius, the girl power movement targeted the largely untapped pre-teen girl audience with a message stressing the importance of strong, loyal unity amongst females. The lively bubble-gum pop of the Spice Girls embodied a gender not willing to lie down, and their debut single Wannabe
acted as a proverbial kick in the pants for male chauvinists worldwide. “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta make it last forever.”
If one band were to ever act as a missionary in convincing boys to jump gender trains, it was the Spice Girls. Many today would argue that the target audience was pre-teen girls, yet the impact of Spice
was felt amongst the male gender as well. Boys around the world flocked to the album, and generally flocked to one of the Spice Girl identities. The identities that were attributed to each member attracted both genders equally. Whether it be Posh Spice, Baby Spice, Sporty Spice, Scary Spice or Ginger Spice; everybody had a favourite. Who this favourite member was did not usually rest on their musical merit. Nevertheless, each member had their own clear role within each song that usually conformed to their identities, most clearly felt in Who Do You Think You Are
. With an absolute dynamite chorus harmonising the girls voices, Who Do You Think You Are
still feels relevant today. The beat jumps around exuberantly, with enthusiastic trumpets creating a party within the music. Each girl excels in their solo-lines, Sporty Spice especially provides delicious contrast with her loud and spirited lines coming in after the girls’ harmonies. Whereas other pop music can feel generic, copied and lacking in emotion; the Spice Girls bounce about with unbridled enthusiasm. The production of the album is done with all the gloss and sparkle that you’d expect, but the producers haven’t damaged the animated vocals of the girls.
A common criticism of the Spice Girls is that their music is lacking in meaning or emotion. Many have described it by the term ‘bubblegum’ pop, sugar filled but with no real protein. The term can be used simply to describe light-hearted fruity pop music, yet it is often used in a negative context. It is in this negative context that the Spice Girls do not fit. Many would assert their music is shallow, and whilst their latter two albums could be labelled this in part, Spice
offers no such lack of genuine emotion. The girls sing with heartfelt emotion in Mama
, their somewhat amateurish singing is brought up and pushed along by the production crew, harmonising nicely into a stirring pop hook. A choir comes in later on echoing the girls, and adding fullness to the music that the girls’ shaky vocals can’t do on their own.
It is easy to see the production crew pulling the girls along in songs such as Naked
and If U Can’t Dance
. A few of the high notes in If U Can’t Dance
feel quite forced, with some of the girls struggling to reach their targets. But it is in the girls’ amateur workmanship that vivid emotion is felt. Their naivety brings with it a lack of polish, but also an abundance of exuberance. Whilst professionalism is always appreciated in music, the Spice Girls’ incredibly contagious spirit makes Spice
a joy to listen to. It is this wide-eyed eagerness that time and again brings an atmosphere that makes the songs what they are. In Love Thing
the girls sing with subtle styling, sometimes putting emphasis on certain consonants; then contrasting it with soft harmonised vocal melodies. The girls and their quite dissimilar voices add great texture when harmonising, creating a nice wide band of sound. The producers must be credited with utilising the girls perfectly and covering up their lack of vocal virtuosity. But the bulk of the credit should be given to the girls themselves.
The slower songs on the album are like countless other pop albums, one too many. Just like the live nude performance of Naked
, musically the song is a bit of a let down. Baby Spice’s delicate singing provides the only highlight on the song, as the repetitively purrs “Naaakeed.” Likewise 2 Become 1
feels slightly awkward at times, with Sporty Spice sounding uncomfortable in her more melodic role (rather than belting it out with vigour). If anything can be called ‘dated,’ it would be these slower tunes. They may have been totally appropriate in their day, yet today they just distract from the bubbly party going on in other songs. There are no real filler tracks on the album, all 10 songs bring something quantifiable. Yet one would be forgiven for zoning out in Naked
and 2 Become 1
A decade later it is easy to see that most do not see the Spice Girls debut album Spice
as a landmark. The cultural, social and musical revolution that enthralled the world is now largely laughed at. They defined a decade in two and a half years, and were tossed aside in a fraction of that time. Like many others that followed them, they peaked with their debut album. Spice
came before the glitz and glamour could influence them: the Spice Girls were still just 5 girls who were streetwise, ambitious, outgoing and determined. In Spice
they defined the word spirit, bringing bucket loads of it in the form of irresistible pop hooks. They captured the world, hook, line and sinker. But now that the world has broken free from their spell, it has done so with a vicious bite. Despite the biased memories of those targeted long ago during the Spice Girls’ reign, Spice
still offers an unrivalled experience. Few pop albums offer an experience on the same level as Spice
, it was the Thriller
of the 90s, it quite literally spiced up 90s mainstream music. They had the strength and spirit to empower young females worldwide, and at the same time convinced young males to throw aside their masculinity for a few moments. Socially, culturally and musically; Spice
truly did make the 90s a decade to remember.